Friday, April 16, 2010

where are we pumping, ladies?

So, the other day I was at a work conference in Manhattan at a large law firm (that was generously donating their space for our meetings). We had access to a beautiful conference room with views of Times Square, a nutritious and delicious lunch, and polite and attentive support staff. I completely forgot (I plead mommy brain) until late the night before that I was going to need to have access to a space where I could pump during the day. I emailed our staff members responsible for organizing the day's event and--voila!--when I arrived on-site in the morning, I was told that anytime I needed a "lactation room," all I needed to do was talk to the people at the front desk and they would have someone escort me.

What I found when I was cordially escorted to my "Mothers' Room" (as the plaque next to the door read) blew my mind.

Now, I regularly work in a friendly office of 60+ full-time employees, but I am one of only two parents there. Issues of pumping and milk storage are pretty foreign to most of the people I work with, though everyone is very accommodating when I speak up about my needs. At this point, I am very used to my little hole of a room where I sit three times a day to type one-handed on my computer while I pump. And--since it is an office "telephone room" that everyone can use if they book it on their Outlook calendar--I spend a significant amount of time each week scheduling (and inevitably rescheduling around other meetings that get booked or rescheduled) my three times a day spread far enough apart that I can maximize the amount of milk I can pump but working around other people's schedules and/or having to schedule other rooms for people so that we can swap when they have my pumping room booked already during times when I need it. I'm not going to lie--it's a real headache, not to mention an annoying time-suck. As for the room itself: pros are that it has mini-blinds on the glass door to hide me and a lock on the door; cons are that it is so small I have to turn sidesways to slide inside the door because it can't be fully opened if there are two chairs inside and there are no windows. If you have ever pumped milk or breastfed a child, you know that your body temperature rises while it is working hard enough to express milk, so I get very claustrophobic and hot in my little room!

But then, this law firm comes along and I get a real eye-opener. Holy cow! I forget that there are places of work with designated rooms just for this! It was a shock to my system to get a glimpse into the family-friendly environments that some lucky mothers have. I snapped a couple of pictures to show the range of its features.

A coffee table stacked with parenting-related magazines (my favorite touch):

A bulletin board displaying information on La Leche League of Manhattan:

Private refrigerator:

A rocking chair:

A lounge chair:

However, it cracked me up that, as I was leaving the room after one of my three pumping excursions that day, a woman stopped to comment on the leather bag I was carrying. "Oh my God, they didn't make pumping bags like that back when I was using that room!" she said. I assured her that this was a bag I had owned already (not the one that came with my breast pump!), but then made the comment to her that this room was incredible. She looked at me like I was completely crazy and said: "Well, I guess it's not that bad." I was confused and told her that it was lightyears better than the one I used at my own office and she shrugged and said: "I guess this one could be worse." Yes, yes, true. Could definitely be worse.

Earlier this year, I was in a situation where I was at another external organization for an all-day event and the person a the front desk tried to tell me to use the bathroom (plugging in at the shared sinks and standing there while my co-workers--including someone I managed--could walk in and out). I didn't know what else to do, as I was a guest at this office and I had to pump, so I reluctantly plugged in my pump at the sink and started putting my equipment together. Just then, though, a woman came out of a stall and gasped: "Did somebody tell you to pump in here?" I explained and she was appalled. Turns out that she was a mother herself AND the president of the organization! She apologized about a million times that anyone should have suggested I do something so unsanitary and degrading as pump at the public sinks in their bathrooms and then gave me her private office to use then and again later in the day.

It has been fascinating seeing all these different setups (or lack thereof) and has made me wonder what kinds of spaces other mommies use at their places of work. I'm sure that my stuffy little room probably sounds like the Shangri-La to some people. I'd love to hear about them all!


  1. Well, the one day per week that I have to pump at work (I work part time, only half of which is outside of the home), I have to pump in a bathroom. It's a clean, spacious, private bathroom, but a bathroom none-the-less.

    I have to ask, though, why do you have to type one-handed? You need one of these! :) It has been a lifesaver for me. I pump at home at night a few nights a week in addition to once a week at work, and I can read a book, type two handed, or do any number of other two-handed tasks. :)


  2. I do have the stuff to pump hands-free, but for some reason I have never been able to get a good seal. I can't tell you how many times I've ended up leaking milk all over myself and then had to borrow a scarf or sweater from someone at work until it dried! I know other people do it, so I'm not sure what's wrong with me...funny-shaped boobs? But I have just ended up holding onto it in the meantime.

  3. For that specific hands-free bra-type-thing that I got, I ordered a size down. I was basically between the measurements for Medium and Large, and went for the medium. It seemed a bit small when I first got it, and I feared I had a made a mistake, but I think I'd have problems getting a good seal if I'd have gone with the large!

  4. Great post! Also, the title is a great example of the need for the direct address comma. Har har.

  5. Nice post! and also the title is very great,..